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Playing Middle Pair Cautiously, Then Seeking Value With Backdoor Flush

Playing Middle Pair Cautiously, Then Seeking Value With Backdoor Flush
  • A marginal made hand backs into a big one on the river, and @JonathanLittle goes for value.

  • @JonathanLittle flops middle pair and plays cautiously, then gets lucky by backdooring a flush.

Today's hand is a deep-stacked tournament hand in which the effective stacks were 100 big blinds. It's one in which I flop middle pair and play middle pair as I should — that is, cautiously. Then I get lucky to back into a much stronger hand with which I looked for big value.

The blinds were 200/400 with a 25 ante, and it folded to me in the lojack seat where I had been dealt {J-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}. When it's deep-stacked like this I often will open for about 3x, though here I raised just over 2.5x (1,050) which is fine.

It folded to the button where a player raised to 2,800. I had about 80,000 to begin the hand and he had about 40,000, so the effective stacks were 100 BB. The blinds stepped aside and I called, meaning the pot was 6,650 when the flop came {Q-Hearts}{J-Clubs}{5-Diamonds}.

With this marginal made hand, I'm looking to check-call most of the time, but after I checked my opponent checked behind.

The turn brought the {3-Diamonds}, giving me a flush draw. I could have bet, but I checked once more and this time my opponent bet 3,000. I made the very easy call, then got there when the {A-Diamonds} came on the river.

There was 13,650 in the middle. I could have led with a bet here. In fact, may people do in this spot. But I prefer checking because it's hard to get paid by leading after such a river card. Checking also gives my opponent an opportunity to bluff, which he should be doing a decent amount of time.

Take a look and see what my opponent decided to do and how things turned out, and listen as well to my analysis along the way:

Whenever you make a backdoor flush like this, you definitely want to raise which is what I did. Note as well my sizing with the river check-raise — an amount less than his total remaining stack that he can conceivably call.

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,700,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

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